Incredible contemporary Chinese art collection given to Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 December 2013

Professor Michael Sullivan has left one of the world's finest collections of Chinese art to the Ashmolean Museum

A photo of a husband and wife standing on top of a mountain in Asia
Khoan and Michael Sullivan collected hundreds of paintings from Asia© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
More than 400 works of modern and contemporary Chinese art, assembled by a revered Professor and his wife since the 1940s, have been gifted to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in a bequest which will show numerous paintings for the first time and honour a collector whose knowledge of Asian art was unparalleled in Britain.

Professor Michael Sullivan, whose 1959 book, Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century, was the first to address its subject, went on to become a Lecturer in Asian Art at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies during the 1960s and a Professor of Asian Art at Stanford University for 18 years, retiring to Oxford in 1985.

The pre-eminent scholar on the country’s modern art outside of China, he used a prize grant, awarded by the American Friends of Shanghai Museum in 2012, to buy an early 20th century Scholar’s Rock for the Ashmolean’s permanent collection. His final flourish of generosity follows his death in September 2013.
“Michael Sullivan was a long-standing friend and supporter of the Ashmolean,” said Professor Christopher Brown, the Director of the museum, praising Sullivan’s “forethought and generosity” in leaving an “outstanding” series to Oxford.

“His paintings will be displayed, on rotation, in the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery where they will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors.

“Scholars from around the world will have the opportunity to use the works in their study, teaching, and research. We hope this is a fitting testament to a great art historian and collector.”

Many of the painters became close friends of the couple. A commemorative exhibition, Michael Sullivan: a Life of Art and Friendship, will open at the museum next March.

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An image of a painting showing a wave blowing beneath Chinese writing in black ink
Qi Baishi, Landscape with Blue Mountain (1953). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
An image of a painting of a scene in China showing brambles and woodland
Wu Guanzhong, Wuxi and Lake Tai (1973)© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
An image of a painting of grassland and houses in China painted in black and colour
Huang Binhong, Waiting for the Ferry in Sichuan (circa 1948–9). Ink and colour on paper© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
An image of an abstract painting of blacks, white, oranges and greens from China
Fu Baoshi, Album page from Landscpaes of the Four Seasons (1950)© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
An image of a brown and white painting of a man staring back at the painter
Qu Leilei, Portrait of Michael Sullivan (2012). Ink on paper© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
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